Follow the latest on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria
Under the rubble left behind from Turkey’s earthquake, barks, miaows and even the cooing of birds have accompanied the cries of people trapped.
As rescue teams scrambled to reach areas devastated by the tremors, those who hear an animal in distress, or are worried about their own beloved pet, know who to turn to.
“There are thousands of calls coming in,” says Zeynep Ceren Oktay, spokeswoman for Haytap, an animal rights charity currently working in the disaster zone.
The Haytap team sprang into action to help people and animals after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake. Local specialists were able to reach some of the collapsed buildings before international teams from countries including India, Saudi Arabia and the UK joined the effort.
Haytap members in nearby Osmaniye rushed to Antakya, a city reduced to ruins by the quake, setting up an aid tent at the Defne Tea Garden, Hatay. Later, volunteers, vets and trained search and rescue staff arrived from Istanbul to help.
Although the workers are stretched incredibly thin operating across the earthquake’s affected area, they have also managed to set up an emergency tent in Malatya.
Videos showing Haytap staff and volunteers at work include footage of helping injured babies, pulling dogs from wreckage and even treating sheep at their makeshift tented surgery.
“Every minute our team is saving a life and every day we transport the pets that don’t have owners to Haytap safe houses,” Zeynep tells The National.
“Unfortunately 10 cities are affected by the earthquake and the area it covers is really big. We are trying our best to reach animals in need with limited resources.”
But there are moments of light among the misery. Zeynep describes how a terrier was pulled from the rubble of a house and reunited with its owner, who also survived the earthquake.
In a video posted to the group’s page, a volunteer holds a black-and-white cat in front of twisted metal and mangled concrete.
“Miracles continue to happen in Malatya,” she said.
“This cat came out of the wreckage in good health … we also found a nice, safe home for him.”
Thanks to a legal change in 2021, all pets in Turkey must now have a microchip or owners could be fined. This has raised owners’ hopes of being reunited with their pets and animals.
But some owners will never return to collect them. The earthquake has killed more than 22,000 people in Turkey and Syria, undoubtedly among them thousands of pet owners, and even some survivors may struggle to take care of their pets, Zeynep says.
“It is really sad but some of the owners leave their animals to Haytap because they have lost everything and don’t have anything to maintain their needs,” she said.
The charity, founded in 2008 and run by lawyer Ahmet Kemal Senpolat, is appealing for help in transporting the hundreds of animals in their care from the disaster area, and funds to assist them in their work. But mostly, they want the world to keep survivors in their thoughts.
“We want the world to pray for us,” said Zeynep. “The effect of the earthquake is something that no one can describe. People and pets have lost everything.”
Updated: February 11, 2023, 2:30 AM